Kevin Harvick could see the finish line as he came off Turn 4 in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
All that stood between the 2014 Sprint Cup champion and a second win in The Great American Race was Joey Logano.
Harvick certainly had the power and the car to make a last-ditch bid to beat Logano. But a multicar wreck on the backstretch brought out a caution to clinch Logano’s win in NASCAR’s biggest race, leaving Harvick in second.
“Coming to the white (flag), you never know what’s going to happen,” Harvick said. “Obviously, everything is shuffled out to where these two guys (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin) were nose-to-tail behind me.
“Maybe I should have backed up a little bit harder. But I didn’t want to back up so much that they drove right by me. I wanted to try to time it so I could have them to my bumper, have a good run coming off of four and have a shot.
“That didn’t pan out. Didn’t even have a chance to try to time it out. But still just really proud of my team, the way they act and react to things. I just feel really good about where we are.”
Short of a win, obviously, Harvick couldn’t have had a better start to begin defense of last season’s championship.
He’s seeking to become the first repeat Sprint Cup champ since Jimmie Johnson won five titles in a row from 2006-2010. He was gunning for his second Daytona 500 win Sunday.
Last November, Logano finished fourth because of a pit miscue on the final pit stop in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Harvick won the race and championship.
Three months later and about 300 miles north, the roles were reversed as Logano was able to exact some semblance of payback.
“For me, I’m ready to go to Atlanta,” Harvick said. “It seems like we’ve been here for a month. I’m glad today is over. I’m relieved for my team that we had a good, solid finish, a good start to the season.”